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British Gunrunner Released from Indian Prison - 2004-02-04

India has released from prison a British man who had been sentenced to life in the 1990s for smuggling weapons to rebel groups in the east of the country.

Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has pardoned Briton Peter Bleach, who had spent more than eight years in jail on arms-smuggling charges.

Bleach was arrested in 1995 for parachuting crates of weapons to rebels in the state of West Bengal. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Bleach's five accomplices, all ethnic Russian Latvians, were also given life sentences. But they were released in 2000, after Moscow intervened on their behalf.

Word of Bleach's impending release came last week, after British Home Secretary David Blunkett visited India. British Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the case with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani in London.

A British Embassy official met Bleach upon his release from the prison in Calcutta where he was serving his term.